Weekly Review: La La Land (2016)

Mia and Sebastian are young dreamers living in Los Angeles. They bond over their common desire to pursue careers in what they love, but when their dreams begin to turn to successes, the decisions they make threaten to tear apart their fragile relationship.

Pretty much everything I’ve heard about La La Land has been positive. It’s a critically acclaimed film, a musical actually. It was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, ultimately winning six of them. The film is directed by Damien Chazelle, known for his 2014 Academy Award winning film Whiplash. It stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

Since I had heard so many great things about La La Land, I was expecting to see something great, something absolutely fantastic. Let me rip the bandage off this one really quick. I did not like La La Land. I am fully aware that this is an unpopular opinion.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 3.46.38 PM

Many people may assume that my dislike toward this film is due to it being a musical. That’s not entirely the case. I like musicals. I did not, however, like how La La Land was as a musical. Personally, I felt that none of the songs in this musical had any feeling (with the exception of “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” performed by Emma Stone toward the end of the film). In the end though, none of the songs were really memorable to me.

Everything felt too much like an empty shell, from the characters themselves to the overarching story. The characters were more symbols than characters, having pretty much nothing going for them outside of the current action being displayed. I didn’t feel like there was any reason to root for these characters to achieve their dreams, other than the fact that they were the main characters.

I felt that La La Land was trying too hard to be nostalgic. I picked up on most, if not all, of the references it was trying to make, but it just felt awkward to me. You could argue that musicals never feel natural, but this film just felt really forced to me. It was too scripted, too routine. It shoved elements from classic films into itself as if it were following a formula, completely lacking all of the context that made those films stand out when they were made.

There were definitely some glimmering moments in the script, mostly due to Emma Stone’s performance in my opinion. She managed to bring life to an otherwise drab character. Overall, though, the film just felt like it dragged on forever. I found myself sitting on the couch, watching the clock, just waiting for it to end.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have proven from previous roles that they have a good chemistry together. This movie only further proves that. I will give it that much. I understand what the story was trying to say. I appreciate that the creators went for a non-storybook ending. Unfortunately, it just didn’t click for me.

The slow story is only further dragged down by the boring cinematography. Sure, it looks gorgeous, but practically every shot is a long winded wide shot. Rather than cutting between a wide shot, some sentimental close ups, and maybe a two shot here and there, it just stays on the wide shot the entire time.

I get it. They’re trying to show off the handheld camera skills that they have going on. They’re trying to set the stage for how musicals were back in the days of Singin’ in the Rain, but it just didn’t compliment the story for me. Without being given something new to look at, I found myself zoning out way too much. Again, it seemed to lack feeling.

La La Land is definitely one of those Hollywood movies about Hollywood. Those films usually tend to get critical acclaim in a very pat-on-the-back fashion. I feel this is no different.

Despite all of the positive things I’d heard about La La Land, I was extremely disappointed from practically the first scene. I’d hoped I would enjoy the film more, but overall, I really only enjoyed the last 20 minutes or so. If the entire film had featured those emotions and that feeling, then I may have received it better.

As usual, you don’t have to agree with me, but I probably wouldn’t recommend this film. I’ve seen better musicals, and I’ve seen better films overall. Many are lauding La La Land as a classic, but I feel it’s far from that.

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